Karie Bookish Dot Net

Where Are We Heading? Knitting as Lifestyle Brand?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about celebrity, privilege, aspiration and the craft world. Could I have picked thornier topics? Probably not. Apologies for the long rant ahead. I had a lot to squeeze in and I could not always go as in-depth as the subject required.

Thanks to my job I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and looking at personal craft websites. After a while much of it blurs into one giant peach/mint blob of perfectly-coiffured people showing me how to make organic acai berry mojitos in expensively procured ‘authentic’ jam jars. It feels like much of the ‘making’ out there is now designed to get commercial brands interested in working with you rather than about the crafting/making itself. In its own way this reflects the lifestyle websites GOOP and Preserve launched by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively. These are aspirational websites. Websites that  are full of words like ‘artisan’, ‘authenticity’, and ‘mindfulness’ – whilst making you feel you are a bit of a failure for not being tall, skinny, blonde and rich.

This depresses me. The craft revival is precariously close to becoming Gooped and I fear we could be looking at the peach/mint-coloured beginning of the end if we are not careful.

goop

Looking from a knitting industry & community perspective, we are not quite a peach/mint-coloured blob but we are looking awfully white, able-bodied, heterosexual and middle-class. I’ve thought a lot about the idea of privilege in knitting and I’ve had very long discussions with myself – from “Ravelry is showing us such a vast cross-section of body types” and “Knitting makes good clothes super-affordable” to the way I present my own identity online. It took me a long time to realise that the majority of popular patterns on Ravelry show a conventionally attractive white woman as their main photo; it took me far less time to notice how much we talk about high-end yarns. For years we have been having conversations about diversity in knitting, and yet I was strangely reluctant to start designing garments because I am plus-sized (I loathe this term, incidentally). Why did I feel so unsure of my body type in an environment that seemed to celebrate diversity? This was my personal light-bulb moment. The knitting world is not Goop or Preserve, but it is a great deal safer, more conventional and much more aspirational than we may like to admit.  I mean, when one of the most controversial topics in recent knitting times was simply that a guy was wearing make-up in photos, it is maybe time to hit pause and reflect a bit. 

So I hit upon a snag when it came to body image, but there is no denying that I am privileged. I am white, I scrub up nicely in photographs, and I can write fully-formed sentences in my second language from my charming kitchen office in adorable Scotland. It’s a nice mental image, isn’t it? You can almost taste the homemade acai berry mojito, right? I’ve written about this previously – but the knitting community does not tend to share the complexities of our every day existence (a few people do; most don’t). And I am one of the ones who shy away from writing about the darker sides of life. Writing about artisan yarns, authenticity in design, and mindful knitting is a lot nicer – even if it veers awfully close to Goop territory. I wonder if we are seeing a slow slide into lifestyle marketing of knitting? Will the knitting world eventually become a peach/mint-coloured blob as lifestyle becomes more important than what we make? 

trends

In my 2013 post I asked what would happened if we had to be ourselves online rather than a ‘carefully pruned, shaped thing that is presented to you [as] truth’ (to quote the author Jean Rhys)? The overwhelming response was that people were worried about presenting themselves as failures and that they felt compelled to be positive. I wrote that two years ago and I find it really interesting to compare the discussion to the idea of ‘a personal brand’ which is really pervasive in the knitting industry now. We have specialised marketeers now that work on defining brand identities, deliver customised social media content, and create marketing strategies for individual designers. I know some of them (all incredibly talented and hard-working people) and I am happy to see them work with some incredible designers that benefit from having a social media presence etc. On the other hand, there has been a real growth in out-of-nowhere ‘life coaches’ that talk about ‘being your Passion’, ‘finding your personal Joy’, spirituality, self-awareness, and so forth. This development confused me at first as I had assumed professional business advice would be flowing into the industry (accountants, graphic designers, admin tools) but I am wondering if it is the first sign that lifestyle branding is taking over? Working in the industry is now a lifestyle that necessitates a life coach, but not an accountant? Really? Will knitters be the next ones to need gentle guidance?

But going back to the idea of ‘a personal brand’, I have always struggled with this. Like so many other people in this knitting world, I am an introvert. I have a rich inner life; I like spending time on my own; I am quiet; and I like all those stereotypical introvert pursuits like reading a book, writing, and going to the library. Having to talk about myself and my work is really, really hard for me and while I love meeting other knitters, I find crowds quite stressful. Ultimately I rebel against the ‘personal brand’ tag because my job isn’t about me – it is about knitters. I was once asked ‘what do you want to be known for?’ and my honest answer was this: I don’t want to known for anything.’ For me, my job is to be a catalyst: Doggerland was about knitting inner landscapes and enjoying soothing, meditative knits as much as it was about making a shawl. It was about the person making the shawl, not about the person who wrote the pattern. It’s really, really not about me (even as I’m having this semi-rant).

lifestyle

Finally, a call to arms. Let us focus on the simple things in knitting. Let us make things because they bring us happiness. Let us focus on the knits and the purls. Let us embrace the joy of making something that keeps us warm in the depths of winter or on a cool summer’s night. Let us recognise and celebrate that we are all just ourselves. Reject the commodification of ‘the knitting lifestyle’. Reject narratives that tell you that you are too old, too young, too fat, too skinny, too anything to wear/make something. Reject narratives that only tall, skinny, blonde and rich actresses are worth our time. Reject notions that you have to knit with super-expensive yarns or circular needles to be a ‘real knitter’. Be yourself and enjoy your knitting.

Pass me the authentic superfood jam jar mojito.

58 Thoughts on “Where Are We Heading? Knitting as Lifestyle Brand?

  1. Louise on May 11, 2015 at 2:21 pm said:

    YES!

    I am so glad that you have written about this, Karie!
    There has been such an emphasis on personal branding that can actually fly in the face and be so damaging to the craft and the community.
    We should all remember the in-round-through-off meditative practice that grounds us and brings us such joy!
    Very well said!

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:37 am said:

      Part of this post was prompted by a Twitter convo in which you said I needed to blog my thoughts, actually.

      • I keep coming back to this post and have been examining a lot of what I read online.

        I love reading about the knitting community and real experiences therein. I realise now that some of what I read rarely mention the authors own knitting experiences any more and I wonder if that’s why there are quite a lot of unread posts in my RSS feed of blogs and sites that I used to read often.

        There has been a shift. I worry increasingly about the loss of what I know and love about the knitting community and those real experiences over something far more aspirational, that focuses on (capital letters) “KNIT: THE BRAND” and is full of images of wool pictured with 3 petals, a twig and a cinnamon stick and placed on a slate.

        Clare said “people are making life some sort of special race that they must win, instead of just enjoying living in the moment” – boy! that really resonates with what I feel.

        Lifestyle and branding don’t always have to be dirty words – I feel my own knitting is a lifestyle – but there is a paper thin line and I think when I am made to feel that I am doing something wrong by not having the right kind of lifestyle and/or brand and I have to see blog series on exactly *how* I can achieve that….! Absolutely no thank you!

        I need to sit with my needles and do the in-round-through-off meditation and ground myself in that.

        This is a really important post, K. I hope the discussion continues

  2. knit1girl1 on May 11, 2015 at 2:43 pm said:

    Brilliant post and I couldn’t agree with you more! As someone who is looking at their own brand at the moment and how I want to be perceived what you have written really resonates with me. We do need to keep with the core of crafts in that we do it because we love it!

  3. I think you may just have identified my unease and what has caused a “blockage” in some internet activity of mine. Thank you. Good for thought indeed.

  4. “Be myself and focus on the simple joys of knitting.”Yes! Yes yes yes!
    But here’s where I get hung up… the beautiful Indy patterns all call for yarn that is soooo expensive. My simple fact is that I can’t afford to knit, (except for socks until I am bored and who needs another afghan or baby bootie. Not me!) I would so LOVE to knit myself beautiful sweaters and tops but I can’t afford the yarn at $10+/50g ball when it takes 8 balls to make a top and I don’t know how to figure out changing a pattern for a different yarn than called for. I wish some articles would be written on how to knit a nice top out of…I don’t know, yarn from Walmart or yarn I can afford, so everyone could afford to knit?

    • http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter03/FEATwin03TBP.html has some useful info on swapping yarns, I rarely use the yarn specified for a pattern. Careful use of sales, discount codes, destashes, ebay, coned yarn etc. can mean you can make knitting affordable. Also finer yarns will end up cheaper on the whole than the really chunky ones and you have more time enjoying knitting it.

    • You’re not the only one with this problem, but there’s always a substitute yarn available. Best shortcut to finding one: check Ravelry to see what yarns other people have used for a given pattern. (Click “yarn ideas” at the top of the pattern page.)

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:38 am said:

      Some excellent ideas on yarn subs from other readers!

    • I’m here because I love this post and I want to say I wholeheartedly agree! But I also run yarnsub.com, a website which offers alternative yarn options, so it might give you some ideas for swapping yarns in patterns you love.

    • Learn to Spin. A nice fleece will cost you around £10, a spindle £5, a dog comb under £1.
      It won’t be quick, but it will be rewarding, and in 100% wool.

    • I also always substitute yarn – and I always check on Ravely the yarns other people have used for a pattern. It also works the other way round – ravelry has a great yarn database, and you might find that the yarn that Walmart stocks are listed there.
      Select the yarn, and on that page you’ll find two tabs that are very useful – pattern ideas and projects. Click on each of these, and you can see what others have made from this particular yarn.

      I prefer high-end yarn – but I only buy it when it is on sale!

  5. I’m delighted you’ve broached this multitude of topics: lifestyle myth, personal branding and the commoditisation of democratic and enjoyable skills. I’m deeply allergic to “lifestyle” & lifestyle blogging! (I actually wrote about it recently here: http://ow.ly/MNJWm.)

    Much of my interest in making is in its ability to set us free from commoditisation and a lifestyle race. Yes, everyone should have access to a decent, dignified job that pays a living wage but by meeting some of our needs through making (& that includes making our own wellbeing), we can recalibrate our ideas of what constitutes a decent wage and free up time to work on the things that truly give us joy, like making. For me making (whether cooking, gardening, knitting, throwing clay,…) is also about observing and understanding my world, which is a source of pleasure in itself. (Artisans and craftsmen understood the properties of materials and law of physics long before scientists!)

    PS – I wouldn’t consider this a career suicide post but then again I’d never heard of GOOP till this post and I unravel & reknit yarns so I’m not sure how representative I am ;-)

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:40 am said:

      I’m really interested in you identifying “the lifestyle race” and how it ties to consumption. I’ve just read your post but I’d love to read more on how you see it being tied to ‘making’.

  6. the desert knitter on May 11, 2015 at 4:01 pm said:

    This is a fascinating post, and I agree with so much of it (from the point of view of an amateur/hobbyist who just started knit-blogging recently – I just wanted a space to ramble a bit about my knitting). I’m continually intrigued by the way knit designers/indie dyers/similar craftspeople help create and participate in online communities out of both genuine personal interest and economic pressures. I say “economic” because it seems the “lifestyle” movement is “aspirational” and “mindful” and creates unrealistic images about e.g. body image and craft materials, but is also designed to make people money. You have to be tall, skinny, blonde, and rich; but hey, if you’re not, you can pretend you are by buying what Gwyneth/Blake et al. buy and making your living space look like their living space! And of course craftspeople need to be able to sell their products (so I don’t mean “economic” as a bad word), but I can see that there is also a pressure to sell themselves as part of that product (at once fueled by and fueling “lifestyle” stuff, it seems). Not sure this makes much sense (it’s early here), but I appreciate your post.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:41 am said:

      Glad you enjoyed the post! And I’m glad that it’s triggered some thoughts :)

  7. Goop looks positively scary to me. I was looking at Pinterest but then you suddenly get this ‘everything looks the same’ feeling. I get that with magazines too. I don’t know if it is reaching 60, but really I never notice people’s size etc. (Unless they are very underweight or conversely taking up all of the bus seat – other than that it just passes me by.) For myself, I do sometimes freak out at photos but have become so much more chilled about it.
    Sometimes feels like people are making life some sort of special race that they must win, instead of just enjoying living in the moment.
    Nita – it isn’t too hard to substitute for more reasonable yarns. If you have a local yarn store they will help. Usually if it is DK, 4 ply etc then you should be able to get the same/similar tension. Check the yardage on the expensive yarn and multiply by number of balls to get total yardage. Then figure how many balls of your cheaper yarn you would need. Needle size up or down should get your tension OK. You can often find the yardage per ball on the internet so you don’t have to calculate on the spot. Ravelry also good for seeing what people have used.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:42 am said:

      “Sometimes feels like people are making life some sort of special race that they must win, instead of just enjoying living in the moment.” – and crafting really shouldn’t be about winning the race, in my opinion.

  8. Sara on May 11, 2015 at 4:18 pm said:

    I’m not a designer so here’s a consumer’s perspective.

    I’m not really turned on by a brand, be it wool or a pattern or a range of clothing or a tech product. What I buy has to be useful, suit my needs and be value for money. With my knitting, I love that designers have their own style and I have favourites but I won’t follow one blindly. I evaluate a design to see if it works for me at the point I need it, if not its ignored. Same with wool. I love colour and I want value for money but I’ll shop around for what suits my circumstances and my values. I’ve trained myself to look behind the spin, the gloss and the label. I’m certainly not going to buy something because I saw it on a celebrity Pinterest feed – its more than likely going to make me not buy it. I’m not easily led by flowery words, I’m a northerner and I like my speaking on the plain-side. Again its more than likely to turn me off.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:49 am said:

      And that’s the flipside of the coin – if we are heading towards knitting as lifestyle branding, then many people(like yourself) would just put up their hands and say ‘no thanks’.

  9. Linda on May 11, 2015 at 5:05 pm said:

    Yes! You go, girl!

  10. I think about these issues a lot. I believe people have agency and the people I like best are “self-created” — meaning they add, embellish, learn, work hard, etc to make themselves into who they want to be.

    On the other hand, these aspirational/branded craft sites feel like they are out to monetize these things in extreme capitalistic ways by making people feel less-than if they are not eating artisan organic guilt-free (ooooh another phrase that gets my hackles up!) chia seed pudding whilst knitting with cashmere goat yarn blessed by Tibetan monks. This kind of stuff tries to steal your energy/power (and ah, money). People wind up fretting about fitting in/having what they have vs. figuring out who they are/want to be and working on that.

    Ultimately, I believe it’s up to us as individuals to call BS on this stuff (which is why it’s great that you wrote this) and for each of us to find that place where we are working hard and creating on our own terms. I love to see what other people are doing, and can totally tell the difference between a Paltrow-esqe Goopifed horror and someone who is doing interesting and beautiful work and can teach me something.

    (It’s interesting you bring up weight — I think the weight industry, advertising, etc employs these same tricks to get especially women worried about being less-than and is energy/power-stealing.)

    So interested in seeing everyone’s replies — keep ’em coming!

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:51 am said:

      “..On the other hand, these aspirational/branded craft sites feel like they are out to monetize these things in extreme capitalistic ways by making people feel less-than if they are not eating artisan organic guilt-free (ooooh another phrase that gets my hackles up!) chia seed pudding whilst knitting with cashmere goat yarn blessed by Tibetan monks. (..) People wind up fretting about fitting in/having what they have vs. figuring out who they are/want to be and working on that.”

      Quoted for truth.

  11. caroline on May 11, 2015 at 5:53 pm said:

    I feel that we’ve all become cogs in the runaway capitalist machine, manipulated by the ‘Buy more stuff / planned obsolescence’ (AKA Fuelled by greed) brigade. Soon our oceans will disappear under a plastic soup and still we keep buying more stuff. I wish I had the energy to share my knowledge on making for free, but I don’t. However, anyone can make for free, if they put their mind to it. There is nothing more satisfying than creating something from ‘nothing’. You really don’t need to get sucked in to slick marketing.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:53 am said:

      “There is nothing more satisfying than creating something from ‘nothing’.” – Amen.

      And yes, there is a big discussion to be had about the environmental implication of crafting. It’s not really my specialist area but I’d love to read and learn more.

  12. Elainechicago on May 11, 2015 at 5:59 pm said:

    Excellent post, Karie!! Most of us knitters probably feel the same way and just do our own thing anyway. I looked at the Goop website for a couple of years when it first came out, trying to figure out what the message was. Well, whatever, it wasn’t for me. And now we have the “Designers” who are trying to capitalize on more people by designing dishes, pots and pans, shoes, you name it, probably because their original dress business has slowed down. I think that making, by sincere people, will win out over these fly-by-night branders. I also worry about some of the indie dyers who don’t set their colorful yarn and the dyes end up on your fingers and needles. Too many people out to make a quick buck!! Perhaps that’s what it’s all about— making that fast buck off gullible people.

    For Nita-find a good yarn shop and see if you can put some of the yarn on lay-a-way and take only a few balls at a time. A sweater made with good yarn will give you many years of happiness.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 11:58 am said:

      I know many big fashion houses keep going thanks to branded perfume and lifestyle products – but is that where we want the craft revival to head too?

  13. Shuna Marr on May 11, 2015 at 6:02 pm said:

    Interesting post and as always it made me reflect on the topic. In this case who I am as a knitter and whether or not this is a ‘lifestyle choice’. Ok so I’m white, able bodied, heterosexual, middle class and a size 12. I don’t apologise for it because that’s part of who I am. There’s a lot of us about, so it’s not surprising many of us knit. I also don’t apologise for being able to afford hand dyed yarns and expensive patterns. There were many years of my life when I couldn’t afford anything other than the cheap acrylic in my local yarn shop. In those days my knitting was a way to cheaply clothe my kids. Not any more – nowadays it’s much cheaper to buy jumpers from primark than to home knit in even the cheapest wool.

    No, these days, now that I have been able to progress in my career and have a bit more disposable income I see my knitting as a hobby and something that I enjoy doing to help me de-stress from said career. And I’m an introvert too – one who uses her knitting as something challenging, soothing and rewarding.

    There is a certain aspirational aspect I suppose – when I was younger and poorer I had to buy the cheap wools. I always aspired to the gorgeous hand dyed pure wool and silk ones. Those are certainly not a way of saving money. The yarn to knit a sweater in artisan wool can be well in excess of £100. But I purchase them because they are a joy to knit with. They don’t make your hands sweat the way cheaper wools do, and the finished garment is beautiful and tends to wash better and last longer. I get more pleasure knitting with it and wearing it. I enjoy the admiring comments when people say ‘YOU knitted that – how wonderful’! I like that.

    Ok I’m rambling – Where is all this going? Well I’m not sure. You ask whether or not knitting is becoming a commodity. On the designer/ artisan yarn supplier front – looking at it from the outside it seems there are one or two I’ve come across that do appear to be out to ‘get rich quick’ by using their talents to find something a lot of people are willing to pay money for. However most seem to me to be using their craft to make enough to give them a creative quality to their life that they wouldn’t get in another job. I suppose there’s room for both in the market, isn’t there? As long as one or t’other doesn’t squeeze the other out it’s fine. And as long as there are enough of us who aren’t interested in Goop (who knew such sites existed?) or feel inclined to try to emulate celebrities (who?) then the non ‘lifestyle’ side is safe. ☺️

  14. I am guilty as charged of enjoying artisan coffee and hand-dyed yarn some of the time! However, your post really resonated with me. I write a personal blog because I want a space to write about things I find interesting. I’ve often felt reluctant to post modelled shots of my knits (even on Ravelry) because I don’t conform to any conventional idea of attractiveness and somehow I feel that makes my knits less valuable. That insecurity may come from me more than from the behaviour of other knitters, but I think your post is a reminder that there are as many valid narratives as there are knitters. The visible “majority” isn’t the only way. Sometimes social media makes it look as though everyone is sitting in their perfect home, surrounded by flowers and piles of colour co-ordinated yarn! I enjoy some of those images and I’m not saying that we all need to share our innermost secrets or shots of our laundry piles and kitchen bins in order to be “real”. I do think it would be a shame if the knitting community became a manufactured lifestyle product rather than a group of people across the world who share a common drive to make things from string and sticks. Thank you for your post and for raising this debate.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm said:

      (Oh crumbs, I love me some handdyed yarn and proper, good coffee too – let’s not pretend!)

      “.. a reminder that there are as many valid narratives as there are knitters. The visible “majority” isn’t the only way. ”

      Absolutely. And yet it was a shock to me when I realised that I felt insecure and a bit of a failure for not living up to the dominant narrative in a space I considered ‘safe’.

  15. I loved this. Sometimes, it’s not about the next big thing. It’s about the little things we do every day. Let’s celebrate that.

    • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm said:

      “it’s not about the next big thing. It’s about the little things we do every day. Let’s celebrate that.” – this. So much this.

      • Amelia on May 12, 2015 at 12:21 pm said:

        I like the fact that knitting, for me, is a place to be creative, or just follow instructions, to be a challenge, or a soothing exercise, whatever I need it to be. I don’t want to be made to feel “less” by not joining in as much as others, or feeling I’m not in on “the next big thing”. Knitting is my safe place, and I don’t want the worst bits of modern life invading it. So there, world! And now back in my box.

        • I’ve come to think of knitting as a habit: soothing, familiar, purposeful and, sometimes, creative. I’m not a designer and I’m quite “colour deaf”, so for me, it’s not about fashion or trends. It’s about spending some time unwinding and having something well-made to show for it at the end. The basic techniques of knitting count for a lot of this in my mind.

  16. Liz Smith on May 11, 2015 at 8:42 pm said:

    Hear, hear! More of this please. You certainly got this knitter thinking.

  17. I added my thoughts to this debate on my blog, because it became a bit too indulgent for just a comment :) Thanks for the conversation provoking post, always good! http://nearlythere.com/2015/05/11/presentation-self-knitting/

    • Andrea on May 11, 2015 at 9:02 pm said:

      Excellent additions to the conversation. I really like your perspective, Heather.

    • Karie on May 11, 2015 at 11:21 pm said:

      Absolutely loved reading your thoughts – though I’m sorry to hear that you took ‘staged sweetness’ as a criticism from my blog – really not what I was trying to get across!

      • I think it was a comment within twitter actually, there was a longer thread about it. i didn’t actually mention that, but it was the twitter convo which made me want to reply. I guess I don’t see what you’re seeing. I think I’m probably missing something… Or maybe I can’t see it?

        • Karie on May 12, 2015 at 12:05 pm said:

          Ah, that makes more sense! Yes, I think I saw the same Twitter conversations – it was interesting to see how people read this post and took it in a complete different direction.

  18. Brilliant post! Thank you.

  19. I’m sure you’ve put into words what a lot of people have been feeling.

    I, like you, have a problem talking about myself and what I do. I don’t mind my products being highlighted but not my life, who’s interested anyway? Any spotlight on me and I’m gone.

    To be frank, I have a very fine tuned BS detector.

    Thank you Karie

  20. Thank you for putting in words some of my recent concerns about the fiber arts. It’s making me want to riff on the issue of celebrity more.

  21. Really interesting post and comments, I think it’s always worth considering how the images we create of ourselves will make other people feel and the designers whose blogs I love and follow are always the ones where amazing designs are interspersed with everyday narratives and a bit of real life mess. The flip-side of life-style branding such as you describe – GOOP etc. – is that plenty of comrades are using their own blogs to present a refreshingly rich and life-affirming version of knitting as part of everyday life.

    I don’t read women’s magazines because I was so overcome during my cultural studies lessons by the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy they create… and I argued with some performance artists with whom I was collaborating once because they wanted me to wear a pencil skirt in which I couldn’t walk… I’m white, middle-class and heterosexual, but I was seriously disabled in my early twenties and this has given me a very fresh perspective on self-presentation. I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I try to make images which will make other people feel good about themselves – especially images designed to make people laugh – and to try and show that you don’t have to be physically perfect to be happy in your own skin and your own beautiful knitting.

    A few years ago me and my friend Lara rebelled against the “check out my perfect home” aspect of lifestyle blogging with a little project called “Messy Tuesdays”. The idea was to photograph a mess that we hadn’t sorted out yet and to document it with love and humour. We were really bowled over by how many people felt liberated to be invited to row against the tide of perfect house photos by presenting their untidiness without shame. I think that’s the thing; I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t feel insecure about something or whose confidence is bullet-proof. We can spread a lot of love through the knitting world by keeping it real and I for one take a lot of courage from blogs like yours which do just that.

  22. As a dyer it’s a really hard balancing act.
    No one really wants to hear me moaning that I had a rubbish day, and that I’m tired of being wet, cold, and that I hate every single colour I dyed. Who I am is part of my brand image, and I just don’t think it’s sensible for me to rubbish myself on social media. Partly, because the only reason I hate everything I dyed in a particular day is probably because I’m wet, cold, and hungry. The following morning, with the benefit of hindsight, I’ll actually realise that my original instincts were right!
    However, I do try to post a realistic view of what my life is like. I will post pictures of the dog looking very proud of the rat she just killed. I live in the countryside, rats are a fact of life, and sometimes the dog’s manage to catch them. I’ll also post pictures of the giant fluff balls usually found roaming the floor around the place. However, I value my privacy, so there are limits about what I’ll post. My emotions, for the main part, are something I choose to keep private, and I think that’s a perfectly healthy thing to do.There are also other topics I won’t discuss, not because I don’t feel strongly about them, but because I know others will feel differently. This is my sole source of income, I can’t afford to alienate customers.

    As for the representation of non-white, non-heterosexual, thin women. Got to confess, when I post pictures of my patterns, or my fibres spun and knitted I will be helping to fulfil that illusion of knitting being a white, middle class occupation for slim people. I’m blonde, slim etc. However, that’s who I am, and there’s not a lot I can do to change that.
    Interestingly, the latest figures I can find for the UK indicate 1.5% of the population are gay, lesbian or bisexual. 87% are White. Also, if you walk around any fibre festival in the UK I think you’ll see a huge number of disabled people, and a significant number who I’m sure would identify themselves as disabled if you spoke to them. The fibre arts have always been incredibly accessible to many people, have been in the past, and will continue to be so in the future.

    • I think that’s exactly it – bearing in mind how your posts are going to make folk feel, it’s always worth weighing up the thin line between keeping it real and just sharing your woes! The example you give about a difficult dyeing day is a really great one. Because sometimes it’s useful to share the hard things – the mistakes and the parts that went wrong – and sometimes it’s just a big old moan that will bring other people down. Mistakes are so important but you don’t want to undermine your own brilliance either by only talking about everything that goes wrong! I think it’s really interesting to read how carefully everyone here is considering these issues and thinking about how we all present ourselves online.

  23. Margaret Turner on May 13, 2015 at 10:04 am said:

    Thank you for this thoughtful post Karie. I agree with what you say. I have looked at numerous crafting/knitting blogs and have been put off by the lifestyle/branding element you mention. I note your comments about Ravelry but must add that I find it a very useful tool. When I see a pattern I like I find it useful to look at the “projects” for the design on Ravelry. i.e The garment made up by real people and the photos of them actually wearing it. You then see how the garment looks on someone other than a typical tall thin model.

    I must thank you for your interesting, intelligent and enjoyable posts.

  24. This is really interesting, and I’m sure I’ll keep thinking about it in the days to come. It feels strange to read, though, because it just hasn’t been my experience of the knitting world. I’m familiar with lifestyle brands, including Goop et. al., and obviously there are designers and dyers and others in the fiber community who have… “identities”, because I mean, of course they do. But I’ve always felt like those who are trying to make their living in the fiber world are open about their lives to AVOID making crafting feel like a gross, slimy, spendy thing. And I rarely feel like the images indie designers and dyers put out there are manicured or false. So maybe I’m being duped?

    As for representation in things like modelled photos of finished garments, I agree that it could be way better overall. But there are designers and companies that I think are making an effort and taking good steps, and I try to support those efforts with my dollars if I can. (For example, Brooklyn Tweed often features at least some models of colour, and, more unusually, older women, which I find hugely refreshing. Ysolda has a whole collection that is modelled by two different models with different body shapes/sizes.) At any rate, thanks for writing, and even if I’m not sure I agree (or just, this hasn’t been what I’ve seen and experienced), it gives me something to think about.

  25. Karie on May 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm said:

    No, I don’t think you are being duped at all! I’m hoping to squeeze in a blog post later this week/early next week about my own thoughts re. curation, self-representation and identity – I’ve thought about this a WHOLE lot and I couldn’t really go as in-depth in this blog post (it is long enough as is!!)

    YES to Brooklyn Tweed & Ysolda making a difference. I also warmly applaud Vogue Knitting & the Interweave family for their commitment to diversity. But then I do encourage everybody to take a look at, say, the top 1000 patterns on Ravelry. Just take a stroll. I did that exercise a few weeks ago and I felt quite uneasy at the end of it. We can do better.

    • Thanks for your reply Karie! I’ll be keeping an eye out for your future posts. It’s a complicated subject! I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about beauty, representation, bodies, and gender in my professional life (as a historian), so I’m looking forward to reading more!

  26. A thought provoking article. I’ve never been a fan of Pinterest or the highly stylized websites. What I lament is the death of the old fashioned knitting blogs that began to expire upon the birth of Ravelry. I’m beginning to feel like a dinosaur.

  27. Catherine dove on May 15, 2015 at 8:53 pm said:

    Great post! I knit for the joy of it and only knit with yarns I like. So sometimes my projects lie languishing for an owner until the right thing strikes me. But in my craft career I find a massive pressure to brand myself, to become a craft empire ,to “martha” my work. It is an anathema to me. I agree that it could be the death of the work.

  28. Victoria on May 17, 2015 at 9:24 pm said:

    A really interesting post, thank you. I am reminded of Kate Davies’ post about ‘pinny porn’ from some years back, and her excellent discussion of the privilege assumed in many crafts.

    I too miss the old, pre-Ravelry blogs. It’s seems far fewer knitters are willing to write about their process or their mistakes, just their triumphs and subsequent patterns for purchase. Ravelry really is a fantastic resource but sometimes I feel it has created so many niches it is nearly impossible to get a broader picture of crafting- it is so easy just to hang out on a designer’s or dyer’s own forum, so you only see things from that particular stable. The rise in self published patterns must have had a big impact, too, as people have to advertise their work and also be aware that crafters will look into what else the designers have done before paying for something not endorsed by trusted publications.

    I am curious about two things- a while back you wrote about your reluctance to take the ‘designer’ side of you to your knitting group and (forgive me if I misinterpreted this) but I got the impression that you did not want to demonstrate your expertise out for fear of weakening your own brand by giving away your knowledge for free. This is understandable given you make a living from designing and teaching, but do you think this is perhaps partly why others seem to have made a strong brand for themselves? Is it largely self protection against the risk of people under valuing their work? So not just for giving people something to buy into, but also stopping people wanting or expecting something for free? (I’ve no idea if that makes any sense outside my head, sorry.)

    The other thing was your dislike of the term plus sized. What would you prefer? I personally have no idea- wouldn’t it be nice if it was all just part of the spectrum of bodies?!

    Thanks again for such a thought provoking post.

  29. Terri on May 20, 2015 at 9:27 am said:

    Thanks Karie, really enjoyed reading this post and the comments. Hit the nail on the head for me, there’s no doubt that in the past I’ve been sucked into buying yarn as a result of clever lifestyle/productmarketing. I’d like to think that my growing awareness of these tactics has made me more careful and thoughtful about my purchases and I have no problem with genuine people making a living from their skills/talents whatever their size, socio-economic group or colour. However, there are definitely some who have jumped on the bandwagon, and that turns me right off!

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